The State of St. Paul's
This week, I want to highlight the letter I wrote for our 2021 Annual Report—my first as your Priest-in-Charge—and presented last week at our Annual Meeting. Click here to download the 2021 Annual Report.
Our patron saint, the apostle Paul, wrote,
“If we see what we hope for, that isn't hope. Who hopes for what they already see?” (Romans 8:24).
Hope, it seems, only counts as hope if it's for something that doesn't quite exist yet.
We've needed a lot of this faith-driven hope in our time together in 2021.
Right now, our community's narrative is being written within the margins prescribed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The instabilities continue to shape our common life; vaccines, testing, and variants are top of mind more often than I would like. And some members have drifted away—become unseen—in the tumult of abnormal worship and intermittent programming. One of my hopes-for-the-unseen is that most of them will return when they have the bandwidth to do so. In addition to changes wrought by the pandemic, we also continued to adapt to ministry with a half-time Priest-in-Charge. Happily, our lay leaders are the heart of our ministry at St. Paul's, and our intrepid Morning Prayer officiants lead worship on the two Sundays per month when I'm not here.
However, even given the rollercoaster of COVID and a changing church, we took tremendous steps this year.
Over the course of the year, we worshiped: in our parking lot, sitting in lawn chairs; in our cars, drive-in style; on Zoom from our living rooms; and in the pews of our beautiful sanctuary. We were leaders in Southington's first celebration of LGBTQIA+ pride. We witnessed the ordination of a priest (me!) in St. Paul's sanctuary for the first time in memory. We trained up four lay preachers for Morning Prayer Sundays, under the expert guidance of Rev. Salin Low. We welcomed new families into membership at St. Paul's and recruited two of the youngest acolytes we've ever had. We celebrated the first same-sex wedding in St. Paul's history when I married Jen and Katie this November. We watched the children perform a Christmas pageant having done absolutely no rehearsal. We found out what it's like to have a Priest-in-Charge who's also a graduate student.
A couple other highlights and details are worth mentioning for posterity:
Monthly drive-in Eucharists from January through Easter, with Zoom Morning Prayer on the other Sundays. Easter through the fall, 8am worship indoors and 10:15am outside in the parking lot. Inside for All Saints Day to end of the year
Ash Wednesday on Zoom, with everyone picking up their ashes and imposing them on ourselves
We confirmed 11 youth on three different days (5/23, 9/11, 9/18), in three different places (St. Paul’s, Trinity on the Green in New Haven, St. Andrew’s in Rocky Hill), by three different bishops (Laura Ahrens, Jim Curry, Drew Smith)
7 youth and 4 chaperones went on pilgrimage with Wonder Voyage to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming
Free Little Pantry installed near our driveway under the leadership of Kate
Women’s retreat at Camp Washington in October, led by me and Rev. Mo Lederman
Successful and joyous pledge drive, with pledges holding steady from 2020 to 2021
Thank you so much to everyone who made this year possible, especially our employees Jenn, Matthew, and Jamie.
As a community, your flexibility, creativity, and resilience were evident at every turn. Serving as your Priest-in-Charge has, so far, been one of the great blessings of my life. I can't wait to see where the Spirit leads us in 2022.